Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1: WORLD AIDS DAY Message from Vatican Pontifical Council and Caritas Internationalis


VATICAN CITY, 1 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Made public today was an English-language statement from the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers for World AIDS Day 2011.

  The text, signed by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the pontifical council, says that the Day "must constitute a new opportunity to promote universal access to therapies for those who are infected, the prevention of transmission from mother to child, and education in lifestyles that involve, as well, an approach that is truly correct and responsible as regards sexuality. In addition, this is a privileged moment to relaunch the fight against social prejudice".

  An estimated 1,800,000 people still die every year because of HIV/AIDS, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. "These are people who could lead normal lives if they only had access to suitable pharmacological therapies, those known as antiretroviral therapies.

  "Deaths are thus witnessed that are no longer justifiable, just as the pain of the relatives of the people involved. ... By now the transmission of the infection from mothers to their children, who often become victims even before they begin to see the outlines of the world that surrounds them, equally, cannot be justified.

  "Although the extension of these therapies to all peoples and to all the parts of a population is something that cannot but be engaged in, of fundamental importance, on the other hand, remains the formation, the education, of everyone, and in particular the new generations, in a sexuality based upon 'an anthropology anchored in natural law and illuminated by the Word of God'. The Church and her Magisterium ask for a lifestyle that privileges abstinence, conjugal faithfulness and the rejection of sexual promiscuity, because, as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Africae munus' emphasised, all of this forms a part of the question of the 'integral development' to which people and communities have a right.

  "In launching this new appeal for commitment and solidarity in favour of all the (both direct and indirect) victims of HIV/AIDS, we would like to thank, in union of spirit with the Holy Father, all those who have striven, often for very many years, to help them. We are referring here to institutions, agencies and volunteers who 'work in the sector of health care and especially of AIDS'. ... who, without doubt, deserve the operational support, and support without ideological ties, of international organisations and benefactors.

  "Lastly, we wish to express our proximity to people afflicted by HIV/AIDS, to those who are near to them, and to all those healthcare workers who, being exposed to the risk of infection as well, provide all possible care to them, respecting their personalities and their dignity".
CON-AVA/                                                                                      VIS 20111201 (450)

Mr. Michel Roy, Secretary General to the 163 National member organizations of Caritas
Internationalis, with regard to the Update for the Caritas HAART for
Children Campaign.

As many of you already are aware, the Caritas Confederation has taken a
lead role, since 1987, in responding to the needs of people living with or
affected by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and in advocating for governmental and
civil society action in response to this pandemic based on the values of
justice and charity. During the past years, much progress has been made.
Even though a cure for AIDS is yet to be discovered, we can be thankful
that increased accessibility of HAART (“Highly Active Anti-Retroviral
Treatment”, the combination of medicines used to treat HIV), has turned
what once was an automatic “death sentence” into a chronic disease.

As we observe World AIDS Day (01 December), Caritas can be grateful that
our organizations are directly sponsoring or supporting HIV programmes in
116 countries and on every continent of the world. There still are many
challenges ahead of us, however. The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS
informs us that, at the end of 2010, some 34 million people were living
with AIDS and that 2.7 million of these became newly infected during this
same year. More than 50% of these persons are women, and they face the
double burden of living with the disease themselves and of possibly
transmitting the infection their babies (during pregnancy, childbirth, or
breastfeeding). Treatment is accessible only to some 50% of the
HIV-positive persons who need it and, despite the best efforts of Caritas
and other Catholic Church-inspired organizations, many people are not
motivated to change the behaviors that put them at risk of contracting HIV

One particular group has been especially deprived of opportunities to gain
access to treatment and prevention of HIV – that is, *babies and young
children living with the virus*. Without anti-retroviral treatment, 50% of
children living with HIV will die before their second birthday. For this
reason, Caritas launched its “HAART for Children” Campaign in March 2009 in
order to invite Caritas and other faith-based organizations to advocate
more assertively for early diagnosis and treatment of children living with
HIV or HIV/TB co-infection and to facilitate better access for
HIV-positive, pregnant women to gain access to the medicines that could
prevention HIV transmission to their children and to keep themselves alive
and healthy.

Since that time, thousands of Caritas workers and volunteers have appealed
to governments, research institutes, and international institutions to
develop and make available “child friendly” formulations and dosages of
“HAART” medicines and to adapt them for use in low-income countries where
it is difficult to maintain liquid formulations because of lack of
refrigeration. We also have been advocating for development and access to
low-cost/ low-technology testing equipment so that mothers and children
could be diagnosed earlier and thus so that appropriate treatment could be

With this letter, I am pleased to share with you our “Caritas Campaign
Update: HAART for Children”. This report provides updated information about
the plight of children living with HIV or HIV/TB
Co-infection.  The report also includes detailed recommendations on how Caritas and other organizations could engage in the Campaign. Please follow this link to find
this report on the Caritas Internationalis website

On this occasion of World AIDS Day 2011, let us ask God to grant comfort
and healing for all persons living with or affected by HIV and to eliminate
all stigma and discrimination toward them. Let us engage with greater
energy in advocacy for Universal Access to HIV treatment, care and support,
most especially for children living with this infection. Finally let us
recall the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in the recently
released Apostolic Exhortation, *Africae Munus*:

*In the name of life – which it is the Church’s duty to defend and protect
– and in union with the Synod Fathers, I offer an expression of renewed
encouragement and support to all the Church’s institutions and movements
that are working in the field of healthcare, especially with regard to
AIDS. You are doing wonderful and important work. I ask international
agencies to acknowledge you and to offer you assistance, respecting your
specific character and acting in a spirit of collaboration.*

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